Michelle Smith Feature: UCLA's Jordin Canada is more than just basketball

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For a long time, Jordin Canada was the girl who did too much, took on too much.

UCLA coach Cori Close has made a point of pulling her senior point guard aside when she sees the signs, with a gentle reminder.

“It’s good for me to listen, to see where she is and how she’s feeling,” Close said of Canada, who will lead the 13th-ranked Bruins onto the floor this weekend for a big homestand against No. 21 California and Stanford, the team that handed UCLA its first conference loss on the final weekend of 2017. “She knows what she needs to do, but sometimes she just needs to be heard. Sometimes leadership is lonely. She knows she is the one we cannot lose.”

 

Canada and Close talk about how the Southern California native empties her tank in each and every game. And how she needs to refill that tank.

“I’m better at it than I used to be,” Canada said. “When I was younger, I wasn’t as good at it.”

Canada has gotten better with age in every way. She is one of the top point guards in the nation. She is poised to be one of the top picks in the WNBA Draft in the spring.

And her basketball career isn’t the only thing filled with possibilities.

Canada thought for a long time she wanted to be an obstetrician. Now she wants to train at some point to be a neo-natal or labor-and-delivery nurse.

Canada loves music. She has had a long-term internship with a Southern California record label, working with music producers and executives and attending events. Learning the business.

“I don’t know what my future holds outside of basketball,” Canada said. “I still have basketball in my future. After basketball, I might go back to school, become a nurse, follow my dreams. After graduation, I just want to focus on basketball and take a little break from school. I’ve been doing that for a long time. But these three things have been a big part of my life. I just don’t know where basketball is going to take me.”

At this moment, Canada – who sustained a sprained ankle last weekend in Utah, but returned to the game after a brief absence as UCLA defeated the Utes in the front end of a road sweep – is focused on getting her team back on track to win a conference title and take a shot at a NCAA title. The Bruins are two-games behind first-place Oregon.

Last week at Colorado, Canada became UCLA’s all-time assists leader with 700 and she became the first player in Pac-12 women’s history to score 1,800 points and dish out 700 assists. She leads UCLA in scoring at 14.9 points a game and is ranked among the national leaders at 6.9 assists per game. She has four double-doubles this season.

One-third of the way through her final Pac-12 season, things are starting to pick up speed for one of the most decorated players in conference history.

“We are finally starting to buy into who we are as a team,” Canada said. “I know who I am as a person and as a leader. I play as urgent as I can, as hard as I can and I lead by example. I don’t try to be anything outside of that.”

And if she’s starting to feel stressed, she looks for time to herself. Takes her dog to the dog park. Calls high-school friends. Some days dinner with mom and dad does the trick.

“You can’t lead from an empty place, you can’t give what you don’t have,” Close said. “She has done a good job of learning that for herself.”

“I am not interested in doing things I don’t want to do,” Canada said. “I used to overwhelm myself with so much stuff. But I’m at the point where I realize what’s important.”

Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse. For previous Michelle Smith features on pac-12.com, visit the archives page.

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